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Shopping for dorm room doodads has potential to get you stoked for the move out but it also involves a headache-inducing number of decisions. If you find yourself standing in the aisles of Target’s college essentials scratching your head, wondering if it’s really necessary to get the fluffy towel/bulletin board/floor rug combo (all in color-coded harmony), stop now and read this.  Regardless of your dorm set up, traditional to apartment style, the bottom line is that your living space is going to be crowded so minimization without crimping your personal style is the name of the game.


1. Collapsible laundry basket: I used a laundry basket that doubled as a hamper. With a quick zip of a few flaps, I

could easily convert my hamper into a laundry basket; when empty, I could fold it flat, making moving a cinch. Avoid bulky hard plastic laundry baskets. Their space to function ratio is just too dang small.

2. Extension cord/surge protector: We are a digitized generation and just about everything we regularly use requires charging- phones, iPods, laptops, cameras, tablets, etc. Investing in a quality surge protector is important when you’ve got all your chargers plugged in. The last thing you need is to have something melt and burn down your building just because you tried to straighten your hair as your phone charge.

3. Hair catcher for shower drain: I’m not sure how the shower situation holds for the guys, but after living in an apartment style dorm with four other girls, I can safely say that a hair catcher is an absolute must have. Hair is pretty disgusting when you’re stuck fishing it out of a clogged drain; save yourself some gagging and splurge a few bucks on this handy piece of plastic.

4. Under the bed storage: excellent for tightly packed dorm rooms. Just make sure you get some quality bins or canvas bags. I opted for the cheap ones and the zippers ripped on move-in day.

5. An alarm other than your phone: A quality alarm is definitely needed; sometimes your cell phone just isn’t going to cut it. You need something that forces your butt out of bed (this is coming from the girl who was 25 minutes late to a final due to oversleeping).

Dorm Do With Outs

1. Furniture and bulky decorations: Do. Not. Bring. Furniture. To. College. Your dorm will supply you with what you need: a desk, chair, bed, and closet space/shelving. Furniture is a pain to move. Space is limited. End of discussion.

2. Throw pillows: Cute, but pillows take up a lot of space when you’re moving.

3. Desk lamp: While it seems like a good idea, you will maybe use it twice during the entire year. If your roommate is trying to sleep as you do homework, it’s easier for both of you if you just move to the dorm common area.

4. Printer: Most schools have wireless printing. It will save you a lot of money to use school printers rather than worry about buying the printer and dealing with all of its additional costs, like paper and replacing ink cartridges.

5. Anything too cheaply made: Saving money is the name of the game, but skip the flimsy bargain bin items in lieu of something that will stand up to the wear and tear of college life.


1. Air-pop popcorn maker: Because Netflix and midnight munchies. It will also make you lots of friends.

2. New shower curtain: If you live in an apartment or suite style dorm, shower curtains from years past can be a wee bit grungy. A new shower curtain will A) smell better and B) look a whole lot nicer.

3. Temporary wallpaper/Washi tape/posters: Anything that you can stick on the walls and remove with ease is a fantastic way to personalize space at a relatively low cost and hassle-free moving. Washi tape completely transformed my barren dorm walls. I used it to frame photos, fill in blank spaces, and add some flair to mirrors.

Hopefully you’ll find these tips helpful as you navigate the barrage of back to school sections of every store ever. My last word of advice is to retain your personality in your choice of décor because your room is your haven on campus.

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the author

Liz Winters is a freshman at Utah State University. She graduated from high school as a full IB Diploma Candidate. Now a member of USU's cross country and track teams, she is as busy and happy as ever. When she’s not running around her college town of Logan, Utah or up a mountain, chances are pretty good she’s either eating peanut butter or playing the flute. You’ll never catch Liz without her water bottle, though she is quite the tea and coffee aficionado (fair trade certified preferred!). Liz has a terminal case of wanderlust, fueled by plans to minor in French. A granola girl at heart, she's planning on majoring in Conservation and Restoration Ecology. Sustainability has blossomed into passion for the planet, and this translates into a love for learning and spreading the sustainable spirit. Liz still doesn't know what she wants to do when she "grows up," but that's just fine because the adventure is all in the journey!

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